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Zimbabwe NGOs Urge Unity Government to Bring Military Into Line on Elections

The security chiefs, all members of the Joint Operations Command accused of masterminding 2008 election violence, are perceived to oppose a transfer of power from ZANU-PF to the MDC for fear they may prosecuted

About 50 Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations have urged the three parties in the country's national unity government to jointly engage senior military and other security service commanders to reassure them of their future in return for guarantees they will not interfere in the transitional democratic process.

Meeting in Bulawayo last week under the aegis of the Human Rights NGO Forum, the NGOs called on President Robert Mugabe as head of ZANU-PF and the leaders of both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - to engage the commanders to discuss “the interests and fears of the security chiefs" with respect to future prosecution for past actions.

The security chiefs, all members of the Joint Operations Command accused of masterminding 2008 election violence, are perceived to oppose a transfer of power from ZANU-PF to the MDC for fear they may prosecuted for their role in the nationwide campaign of violence in the run-up to the 2008 presidential runoff election.

The Joint Operations Command was to have been disbanded after the unity government's formation to pave way for the National Security Council, chaired by President Mugabe with Prime Minister Tsvangirai as a sitting member.

National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Chief Executive Officer Cephas Zinhumwe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the three political parties should give the role of the military the attention it deserves.

Political analyst Bhekilizwe Ndlovu of the Union for Sustainable Democracy told Ntungamili Nkomo that it may be a futile exercise for the principals to try and convince the so-called securocrats not to dabble in politics.

Elsewhere, the Tsvangirai MDC formation said it will confront army commanders about the growing military involvement in politics. Military and security officials continue to hold meetings of the Joint Operations Command and are throwing their support behind President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF in view of possible 2011 elections.

The JOC has recruited war veterans, traditional chiefs, Zimbabwe liberation war collaborators or helpers and the ZANU-PF youth militia to support Mr Mugabe’s re-election, sources said. Security sources said the JOC will focus its efforts on rural Manicaland and Masvingo provinces where the MDC upset ZANU-PF in 2008.

Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangangwa and the war veterans have said they will not allow Mr. Tsvangirai to rule even if he wins. Mnangagwa has been quoted in press reports as defending army deployments in the provinces saying 10 percent of the army has always been deployed in this way as a matter of national security.

Meanwhile, the MDC expressed shock at what it called a veiled threat on Mr. Tsvangirai's life by Jonathan Moyo, the former information minister. Moyo wrote in an article published last week that Mr. Tsvangirai must “just shut up and get on with it as he awaits his assured shellacking at the next polls if he still would be around by then.”

Moyo is known to work closely with most members of the Joint Operations Command.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu that rogue elements in the army are of considerable concern and the matter may be referred to the Southern African Development Community, which is a guarantor of the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing along with the African Union.

But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said there is no need to internationalize the dispute.

Mr. Tsvangirai was in Paris on Tuesday for talks with French officials whom he updated on the political situation in Harare. On Monday Mr. Tsvangirai accepted an award from the International Association of Political Consultants.

The Democracy Medal is awarded for “courageously fostering, promoting and sustaining the democratic process.” He and former South African President Nelson Mandela are the only two African leaders to have received it.

On Wednesday Mr Tsvangirai is to meet with French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Minister of State Jameson Timba, attached to the office of the prime minister, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that while in Paris Mr. Tsvangirai will also try to stimulate French investment in Zimbabwe.

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